The recent surge in demand for influenza vaccines has also seen a rise in the number of vaccine-related calls and incident reports to PDL. This increase may be associated with some pharmacists experiencing vaccination fatigue or making assumptions that past high numbers of this service mean that process review is unnecessary. Such conditions may increase the risk of error or complaint.
While these incidents equate to a very small proportion of all vaccines being administered, they do highlight several areas of practice that may benefit from review and staff meetings. The following are the key points to remind pharmacists and assistants when dealing with vaccine requests.
- Ensure sufficient staffing to manage the demand.
- Consider separating influenza and COVID-19 vaccine services to different days.
- Be extra careful to double-check the anticipated vaccine with walk-in patients.
- Verbally confirm the expected vaccine with the patient/parent/carer using an open question. For example, “As part of my checking process, please confirm which vaccine you expect to receive today?”.
- Avoid closed questions when confirming vaccine expectations. For example, don’t ask “Have you had a flu vaccine before?” as patients expecting a COVID-19 vaccine may think this is checking if they had a previous reaction to a vaccine. However, a pharmacist may assume a negative response means the patient is willing to accept an influenza vaccine on this occasion.
- ALWAYS check the AIR before vaccinating every individual. A patient may have a history of a different brand of influenza vaccine from a GP that does not immediately alert you to their recent flu vaccination being provided.
- Avoid dealing with multiple vaccine patients at once as confusion between different vaccines has been reported. For example, avoid collecting influenza and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time for patients waiting for vaccination.
- Follow ATAGI guidance as willful disregard for guidelines may leave a pharmacist at risk if an incident occurs or a complaint is received.
- Check the age of the patient prior to vaccination because:
- Some jurisdictions don’t allow children under 10 years to receive an influenza vaccine.
- People over 65 should receive the adjuvanted vaccine Fluad Quad or non-adjuvanted Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent. Fluad Quad is free under the NIP for patients over 65 years. While pharmacies may charge a service fee for administration some patients may be able to receive Fluad Quad at no charge from GPs.
- ATAGI currently limits COVID-19 vaccine booster doses to people 16 years and over.
- Since fewer COVID-19 vaccines are being administered currently, double-check the dilution volumes and dose volumes when preparing the vaccines for administration.
- The additional “winter” COVID-19 booster dose can be given to certain people from 4 months after the first COVID-19 booster dose. For people who have had a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection (by PCR or rapid antigen test) after receiving their first booster dose, the additional dose should be given from 3 months after the confirmed infection, as infection has been shown to boost immunity.
For immediate advice and incident support, call PDL on 1300 854 838 to speak with one of our Professional Officers. We are here to support our pharmacist members 24/7, Australia-wide.